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United States v. Warner

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 24, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
EARL D. WARNER, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant, Earl D. Warner's, Motion to Suppress Defendant's Statements. Doc. No. 44. Because the written submissions of Defendant and the Government indicated that there were material facts in dispute, this Court held a suppression hearing which began on July 18, 2013 and was concluded on July 19, 2013. The key issue addressed by the parties was whether, on April 3, 2012, Defendant was in "custody" (and thereby needed to be advised of his Miranda rights) or whether he voluntarily provided information to the police officers. During the two-day hearing the Court heard testimony from: (1) Trooper Troy Owen, (2) Special Agent Thomas Neil Carter, (3) Defendant, and (4) Shirley Warner. In light of this Court's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of law, set forth below, the Motion to Suppress will be denied.

I. Findings of Fact

1. On April 3, 2012, Trooper Owen, an employee of the Pennsylvania State Police and Special Agent Carter from the FBI interviewed Earl Warner at the Pennsylvania State Police Barracks in Mercer County.

2. This interview was arranged via a telephone conversation between Trooper Owen and Defendant a few days prior to April 3, 2012.

3. During the telephone conversation with Defendant, Trooper Owen indicated he wanted to interview Defendant regarding Armando Cruz. Defendant testified that Trooper Owen initially offered to conduct the April 3, 2012 interview at Defendant's home, but Defendant testified that he did not want a police car out in front of his mother's home, and ultimately it was decided that the interview would take place in the Barracks.

4. Defendant and Trooper Owen both testified that on April 3, 2012, Defendant arrived at the Barracks around 1 p.m., and was seated in the waiting room of the Barracks when Trooper Owen went to greet him. Defendant testified that both he and his mother were seated in the waiting room.

5. Both Defendant and Trooper Owen testified that Trooper Owen escorted Defendant to an office. Defendant testified that he told Trooper Owen as they were walking to the office that he wanted a lawyer to be present. Defendant's mother testified that as her son was walking through the waiting room toward Trooper Owen she heard her son ask if he needed an attorney, and she heard Trooper Owen respond in the negative. Trooper Owen testified that Defendant never asked for an attorney.

6. The office where Defendant was interviewed measures fifteen and a half feet by ten and a half feet. The office contained a desk with a computer on it, a chair behind the desk, and a "guest chair" on the opposite side of the desk. The Court admitted four photographs of the office where Defendant was interviewed.

7. Special Agent Carter was in the office near the desk when Defendant and Trooper Owen walked in. Defendant testified that when he walked into the office he immediately saw a whiteboard with his name and Armando Cruz's name above his. Defendant testified he was shocked to see his name connected to Armando Cruz's name.

8. Notably, Special Agent Carter had previously interviewed Defendant in his home on February 15, 2012, in connection with the Armando Cruz investigation. Defendant also testified that this February 15, 2012, interview with Special Agent Carter took place in his home. When Special Agent Carter learned that Trooper Owen was going to question Defendant on a state investigation, Special Agent Carter asked if could be present for the April 3, 2012, interview.

9. Trooper Owen explained that if a suspect is under arrest or in custody, they use an interrogation room which has a chain anchored to the wall. The office where Defendant talked with Trooper Owen and Special Agent Carter contained no device for tethering or chaining.

10. Trooper Owen testified that Defendant never asked for an attorney's presence or advice from the time he greeted Defendant in the waiting room to the time they arrived at the office where the interview was conducted.

11. Trooper Owen and Special Agent Carter both independently testified that prior to posing any questions to Defendant about Armando Cruz and the investigation of Mercer County adults sexually abusing children, Defendant was told he was not under arrest, free to leave at any point in time, the office door was only closed for privacy purposes, and that he would be going home that day. Defendant ...


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